the imperial period some elite women used their priesthoods to establishthemselves as public benefactors on the same level as men, and consequentlyreceived the same forms of public recognition.” (p. 128)(2)
Rome’s Vestal Virgins
(Robin Lorsch Wildfang, London: Routledge, 2006)
“The central purpose of both the most ancient form of Roman marriage rite that
and the Vestal rite of
involved a girl’s removal from the familialcult under which she had lived from birth…The Vestal rite of
removed agirl from the cult of her birth family but manifestly did not complete the transfer of a girl to the cult of any new family. Instead the new Vestal remained in aliminal state, outside the realm of any one Roman family. In both rites, though,there existed a period of time, brief in the case of bride and of at least thirtyyears’ duration in the case of a Vestal, when the girl in question was no longer amember of her birth family’s cult nor yet a ember of a new family cult. In bothcases, the girl or woman in question wore her hair in the
style so longas the period of liminality lasted. The bride put aside her hairstyle as soon as therites that ensured her transfer to her new family were complete. The Vestal,however, retained hers s long as she was a member of the priesthood, visiblydemonstrating her peculiar liminal status and perhaps gaining protection from itsexistence.” (p. 13)
one of two groups (only the
and the Vestals) who wereallowed to wear one. “Both prostitutes and freedwomen were explicitly forbiddento wear either of these garments. In other words, the
was restricted to theuse of certain citizen class women.” (p. 13) The
likely was a visible sign of purity since in addition to freedwomen and prostitutes, divorced women were also prohibited from donning it. (p. 13)
“Alongside their role as purificatory agents, the Vestals had a second andsimultaneous function, the guardianship of Rome’s symbolic storeroom and theritual manufacture of certain religious substances, which, while often used in purificatory rites, seem also in some way to have been symbolic of Rome’s foodstores.” (p. 16) --really good examples of types of food preparation that theVestals did can be found on page 16.
“What should be emphasized instead is the Vestals’ role as guardians of Rome’ssymbolic storehouse. These priestesses were, as Plutarch observes, the onlyRomans allowed within the
and they alone knew the exact nature of theobjects preserved within this storeroom. What was important was not so muchthe precise contents of the
as the fact that the Vestals alone hadresponsibility for these contents and that these contents, whatever they were, wereintegral to the continued existence of Rome.” (p. 17) = more proof/symbolism of the Vestals’ necessity for the continuation of Rome itself.
“Alongside their religious duties within the precincts of the
theVestal Virgins also participated more publicly in at least nine annual state rites.”(p. 22) –same responsibility of purification and storage expressed within theserituals…and of these nine, six were purificatory!
During the traditional New Year’s rite (March 1
, but actually New Year’saccording to the original Roman calendar), the priestesses replaced the olddecorative laurel branches on the
and kindled a new fire on2